Gryphon Audio Designs Ethos CD player

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Gryphon Audio Designs Ethos

Gryphon’s electronics have always stressed a dual mono and fully symmetrical balanced operation, and the Ethos is no exception. It’s fully balanced throughout the digital DAC domain as well, implementing eight ESS Sabre ES9038PRO 32-bit DAC chips in full dual-differential dual-mono mode. This makes the DAC ‘block’ capable of full 32-bit processing and the configuration drastically lowers the digital noise floor while improving the overall imaging properties of the Gryphon Ethos.

Typically, upsampling uses an off-the-shelf upsampling filter. This often effectively folds both digital datastream and any quantization noise or distortion into the upsampled end result. Instead, Gryphon’s Ethos sports a user selectable custom asynchronous sample rate conversion. This permits the use of a simpler, lower-order analogue output filter, and the upsampled signal is decoded via a digital filter with a much gentler roll-off than usual.

Properly implemented upsampling should eliminate the need for conventional, steep-slope analogue filtering altogether. In the Gryphon Ethos, this filter is replaced by a single, silvered Mica capacitor acting as a simple, first-order analogue output filter. Ethos also features a range of digital roll-off options, seven distinct PCM filters and three DSD filters, which allow the user to fine-tune the tone of the player to personal taste.

Meanwhile, the jitter demon is slain by the use of two independent, specially designed, temperature-compensated crystal oscillators accurate to better than five parts per million. And because the company is called ‘Gryphon’, using terms like ‘demon’ and ‘slain’ are entirely fine. Honest.

Power supplies are handled with the same degree of dedication, thanks to two separate custom-built analogue toroidal transformers and two separate digital power supplies. In short, the digital, analogue, transport and display circuits all have their own isolated, heavily regulated power supplies.

That heavily regulated Class A analogue output stage is also fully discrete, fully balanced, employs zero negative feedback and offers both balanced XLR and single-ended phono outputs. Another one of Gryphon’s watchwords becomes relevant here; the use of short signal paths. The internal architecture is built to keep tracks as short as possible and minimises the use of internal wiring throughout.

We could bang on and on and on about the design, build, and execution of the Ethos, covering everything from the fluro front display with its soft-touch hard buttons and Gryphon’s battlefield grade remote handset, to the extensive puck-to-spike decoupling that underpins the design, but it’s simpler to just round it all up by saying ‘above and beyond the call of duty.’ However, all this would be for nothing if the player didn’t deliver the sonic goods too.

The player itself requires some running in to sound at its best, although in fairness the model we received was not fully factory run-in, in order to make our deadline. So, this got some hefty listening brinkmanship and a last-minute write-up. Set-up and use, however, are straightforward, so long as you observe three important rules. First is to never lose that puck, the second is to use the spikes and supplied spirit level to make sure the Ethos is absolutely level, locking them down with the supplied Allen key when finished. Third, never lose that puck (it’s worth saying multiple times). Once levelled, run-in and hooked up to a system, that first disc gets played... and about 10 minutes later you find yourself crawling about in your attic trying to find those discs that went into the “I’ve ripped them, I’ll not need them again!” pile. 

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